The new face of Birmingham
People that haven't visited Birmingham recently tend to get the wrong impression of it. Think back to the 50s, 60s and 70s, and the dreadful concrete jungle that could only be the fruit of an industrial region - it is hardly any wonder that heavy metal music would be created against this backdrop. That old Birmingham has long gone. Massive development projects over the years, some still ongoing, have turned Birmingham into a beautiful city, with the recent rebuild of New Street Station the most recent and long overdue project. I never thought I would refer to Birmingham as beautiful but a walk through the new Grand Central and the city centre around the Colmore Business District and Bullring made me feel proud to be living in this region, even though I'm not originally from here. Birmingham has changed beyond recognition but have the people? Their stoicism is the stuff of legends, but now the city is well and truly on the world map, Brummies have something to shout about and we may begin to see a shift in this mindset.
The Brummie accent is unique and the locals are proud of it, despite how it is perceived by the rest of the country. It should not be confused, as is often done, with the neighbouring Black Country accent, which is completely different and actually a dialect. Here are a couple of clips to highlight the differences between the accents.
The local people are friendly and hospitable and it's fairly easy to get a shopkeeper or waiter chatting about their personal life if you want to, or to strike up conversations in a bar, which is much less likely to happen in London.
Brummies are unpretentious, very self-deprecating and have a dry sense of humour. Birmingham doesn't have a strong sense of or pride in its own identity, so the locals are less likely to get excited than they really should about everything that makes Birmingham wonderful.
Birmingham is proud to be an ethnically and culturally diverse city. Its residents are from a wide range of national, ethnic and religious backgrounds.
From the 2011 Census, the largest ethnic group in Birmingham was White British with 570,217 (53.1%). This is down from 2001 (65.6%) and lower than the average in England (79.8%).
Other large groups include Pakistani (144,627, 13.5%) and Indian (64,621, 6.0%) which have grown since 2001, while people defining themselves as Black Caribbean (47,641, 4.4%) have declined.
Birmingham's European ranking for numbers of languages spoken is higher than any other English core city, according to the 2011 European Cities Monitor by Cushman & Wakefield, and nearly 150,000 people in the region have foreign language skills.
Birmingham is a city of multi-cultural festivals; Chinese, Sikh, Hindu and Islamic festivals as well jazz, dance, and the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the UK.
You can also enjoy cuisine from 27 countries in 200 restaurants, and there are more than 100 balti houses, many of which can be found in the city’s famous Balti Triangle, an area of Birmingham in Sparkhill, Balsall Heath and Moseley.
Home of the balti
The balti was brought to Birmingham in the mid 1970s by the city’s large Pakistani and Kashmiri communities. The unmissable Balti Triangle is the centre of Asian cuisine, fabric and fashion. Bringing together the Sparkbrook, Balsall Heath and Moseley areas of the city, you're never more than a few feet from a tasty treat. In the Balti Triangle, you will find plenty of fantastic restaurants, a veritable treasure-trove of Asian jewellers, traditional dress-makers and delicious sweet shops.
The Balti Triangle boasts approximately 50 restaurants and takeaways each with their own vast range of dishes and secret spice recipes.
Birmingham has produced some outstanding people in its history. Here are a few you will recognise:
Alfred Bird - The inventor of custard powder - his wife was allergic to eggs.
Cat Deeley - TV presenter, actress, singer and model.
J R R Tolkein - Author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
Jamelia - Singer.
Jasper Carrot - Comedian.
Jeff Lynne - Electric Light Orchestra, Travelling Wilburys.
John Cadbury - founder of the Cadbury chocolate factory.
Julie Walters - Actress.
Kenny Baker - R2D2
Lenny Henry - Comedian
Martin Shaw - Actor.
Neville Chamberlain - Prime Minister May 1937 to May 1940.
Nick Rhodes - Keyboards in Duran Duran.
Nigel Mansell - F1 driver.
Ozzy Osbourne - Singer in Black Sabbath.
Richard Hammond - TV presenter.
Shazia Mirza - Comedian and columnist.
Tony Hancock - Comedian.
Tony Iommi - Guitarist in Black Sabbath.
Trevor Eve - Actor.
Now vast swathes of concrete have been cleared away, let's look at some of the good stuff in Birmingham:
Aston Hall - Grade I listed Jacobean house in Aston.
Birmingham canals - The city has more miles of canals than Venice with 56 kilometres of waterways.
Botanical Gardens - 15 acres of botanical gardens in Edgbaston.
Bournville - Village connected with the Cadbury enterprise.
Brindleyplace - Canalside development with shops, bars, restaurants and office space.
Broad Street - Popular nightspot in the city centre.
Cadbury World - Cadbury's visitor attraction in Bournville.
Cannon Hill Park - Birmingham's most popular park, 250 acres, next to Edgbaston Cricket Ground.
Edgbaston Cricket Ground - Home to Warwickshire County Cricket Club.
Jewellery Quarter - Europe's largest concentration of jewellery businesses, in Hockley.
NEC - The UK's largest exhibition centre, adjacent to the airport.
Rotunda - Grade II listed, cylindrical building comprising of residential accommodation and serviced apartments.
Spaghetti Junction - Junction 6 of the M6 motorway where it meets the A38(M) Aston Expressway.
St Philip's Cathedral - The 3rd smallest cathedral in England, located on Colmore Row.
Bullring - Major shopping centre in the city centre.
The Cube - High rise development of apartments, shops, restaurants, offices and a hotel.
The Mailbox - Upmarket shopping, housing and office development, housing BBC Birmingham.
Thinktank - Science museum in Digbeth.
Town Hall - Concert hall and assembly venue in Victoria Square.
Victoria Square - The centre of Birmingham city.
Just what has Birmingham had to offer the world?
BBC - Making network programmes for TV and radio, based in the Mailbox.
Bird's Custard - Egg-free custard powder.
Cadbury's - Second largest confectionary brand in the world. Factory in Bournville.
Cluedo - The murder mystery game.
Dunlop - Rubber goods and the pneumatic tyre.
Guns - Birmingham was a world leader in the production of guns, which the city started producing in the 1700s.
Heavy metal - Birmingham was the birthplace of some of the biggest names in heavy metal music from the 1960s and 70s, including Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Judas Priest.
HP sauce - Brown sauce manufactured in Aston prior to takeover by H J Heinz.
Internet - Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, is a Brummie.
Jaguar Land Rover - Manufacturer or Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles.
Jewellery - 40% of jewellery made in the UK comes from the Jewellery Quarter.
Michelin stars - Birmingham has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other UK city outside London.
Odeon cinema - The first ever Odeon cinema was opened in Perry Barr in 1928.
Rover - Car manufacturer and ancestor to Land Rover. The Longbridge site has now been redeveloped.
The Frankfurt Christmas Market - The largest authentic German market outside Germany and Austria, with over 180 stalls.
The Lord of the Rings - Global best-selling fantasy novel.
The Mini - Iconic British vehicle of the 60s, the first to have a transverse engine and front wheel drive. Made in Longbridge.
The Spitfire - The most famous fighter plane of the Second World War was made in Castle Bromwich.
The steam engine - James Watt, who lived in Birmingham 1775-1819, developed the steam engine.
X-Rays - Pioneered for medical purposes by Major John Hall Edwards; he took the first x-ray in Birmingham in 1896.
So there we have it, a brief introduction to what Birmingham is and has been all about. It is an ever changing and continually evolving city, so don't be surprised if there are additions to these lists before long.